Dear family and friends – Happy Dasara.
Meenakshi Kalyanam ~ Navaratri Alankarana at Meenakshi Temple, Houston
Bommala Koluvu for Dasara ~ Meenakshi Temple, Houston
Dear family and friends – Happy Dasara.
“Holi” – the festival of colors is one of Houston’s favorite festivals. Every year, Indian Association, Gujarati Samaj and Masala Radio together organize a fun filled, Holi celebration in a Houston city park. Nearly 10,000 to 12,000 people come from all parts of Texas to this event. Colors, food, dance programs plus pleasant weather and spring holiday break make Holi celebrations a hugely popular, favorite family event. We go every year and always had fun. The celebrations for this year were today at Seabourne Creek Park in Rosenberg. Here are some photos of Holi hungama.
Happy Deepavali, dear friends and readers. I have missed the web world, and it is good to be back and blogging again. Right now, it’s pecan harvest time in Houston. Mature, pecan trees line up the streets where we live and during autumn season you will see families with baskets and bags picking up the pecans that are fallen under the trees. We also joined the fun this year and picked up about five pounds of pecans from our neighborhood pecan trees. There are still plenty more pecans to pick and share. The shelled pecans were of good quality and very tasty.
Vijay and I, we both like pecans very much and we add them to kosambaris, cakes, pies and pralines. Pecans were one of the gifts that we chose to carry to Nandyala on our last India trip. We wanted our families back home have a taste of this wonderful americana treat. As we had hoped, they loved the pecans, particularly the jaggery-pecan pralines we prepared. Pecans truly are autumn wealth, and it’s good to get some directly from generous pecan trees.
Last weekend, we went to Galveston, a small island in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s about an hour drive from my home. We spent time watching bottlenose dolphins and on the sea on a free ferry ride. The weather was balmy and the beaches were crowded. Still it was fun, thanks to brief rain and cooling breeze. I packed some boiled peanuts to snack. Shell and eat, within minutes they were gone. Salty and succulent, they were the perfect snack for a beach day. Being from the India, I think we are destined to crave boiled peanuts.:) They are very addictive.
For those of you, who would like to engage your tastebuds in a salty succulence with delicious boiled peanuts, here is the recipe.
2 pounds, raw, fresh peanuts
2 tablespoons, sea salt
Big pot or pressure cooker and a colander
Wash peanuts in plenty of water. Take them in a pressure cooker. Add salt and enough water to cover them.
Close the lid and on medium-low heat, pressure-cook the peanuts to tender. Slow cooking produces excellent results with soft and salty peanuts.
Pour the cooked peanuts in a colander and drain the water. Cool for few minutes.
Break open and enjoy the tasty boiled peanuts. Yum!
I found these dried seema chintakaayalu at Canino Farmers Market, Houston. Here they are sold under the name Camachile fruits, shelled from the pods and partially dried.
In Nandyala, India, they were my childhood delicacy and we used to eat them fresh. They are readily available from trees lining the village fields and roads and on sale at the roadside stalls and public markets. The fresh, green pods ripen to pinkish red pods and that signals snack time not only for humans, but also for monkeys, parrots, and other creatures. The mature pods have whitish-pink flesh around shiny brown seeds and the soft flesh taste sweet and tart. We love this nutritious, nature’s snack and it’s a delight to find them here in Houston again after over a decade.
Joseph’s Nursery in Pearland, TX is one of the decent nurseries I have ever been to so far in Houston. It is a gigantic nursery, filled with a huge range of basically everything that can be grown in soil. They have a wide variety of flower, fruit and decorative plants, and a good selection of both Asian and native vegetable plants. Nursery looks well-maintained, the people who work there are helpful and plants’ prices are also comparable to major chain garden centers. Plus, it is almost next to Sri Meenakshi Temple which makes it convenient to do bhagavan and vana darshan one after the other on the same day.
We went there last weekend for spring plant shopping. Brought home a desert rose, papaya and few vegetable plants. Here are some photos we have taken during our trip.
For those of you interested to go, here is the address:
3723 FM 1128 Rd, Pearland, TX 77584-7517
Yesterday, we went to see Ugadi celebrations at Sri Meenakshi Temple, Houston. The program started with Pooja and Panchanga Shravanam, followed by dance and singing performances by very talented Houstonians. Traditional Ugadi meal including Ugadi pacchadi was served at the end. The festivities were organized by Telugu association of Houston and they really put together a nice event. We had great time meeting and mingling with friends.
Here are some photos and one video we have taken at the Ugadi Celebrations.
You know how some first impressions last a lifetime? First time I saw a camellia in bloom was about 20 years ago, during a college trip to Kodaikanal botanic gardens. It was a quick glance, may be few seconds but I remembered those palm sized big beauties and their endearing perfection. It was on my must have plants since then, and I was finally able to plant camellias last November. The variety photographed above is called Pink Perfection and is in full bloom this winter. The flowers are so gorgeous; I think the photo really does not do justice to this pink perfection.
We never thought snow would follow us to Houston. We really thought we left snow back in Pittsburgh and in Seattle. But we were wrong. Like a dear dream of deep sleep, though it took some time, it found us here in Houston. We had beautiful snow scenery last Friday and early Saturday mornings. Thick white snow covered homes, lawns and neighborhood roads on Friday, cold crisp sunny morning on Saturday. It seemed like the weather followed us to bring all the beautiful memories from yester-years.
That rare occasion called for a culinary celebration. A cold quiet weekend needed something that would warm and spice up the time. That is why we made Nippattu: a popular snack of Andhra and south India that is crunchy and moderately hot.
Nippattu (Pappu Chekka)
(makes about 20 to 25 palm-sized Nippattu)
2 cups, rice flour (Biyyam Pindi)
1/4 cup, besan flour (Sanaga Pindi)
1/4 cup, finely chopped fresh curry leaves
2 tablespoons each- rehydrated chana dal & roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon, coarsely ground green chilli
1 tablespoon, ghee
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon each- cumin, ajwan and sesame seeds
Take the flours into a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Work the softened ghee into the mix and add just enough water to make a firm dough.
Tear out small portion of dough and place it on a wax paper. Flatten it a bit and using your fingers, spread out the nippattu in a circle until it is about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Nippattu come in all sizes and shapes, so don’t worry about the perfect shape.
Heat oil in a pan, suitable to deep-frying. Add the nippattu gently into hot oil and deep fry to pale gold. Remove to paper-covered tray. Make all the Nippattu this way.
Cool and store. Nippattu stay fresh upto a month or more when stored in a airtight container. They make best tea, coffee and movie time snack.
Nippattu with Tea ~ A Savory Snack on a Snow Day
Being closer to God has several privileges and advantages. We live at about ten minute driving distance from Swami Narayan Mandir – Houston. The temple is one of the great structures in the USA. The structure and sculpture bring the divinity and belongingness with God. The temple is also one of the deciding factors for us while buying our new home last year. During our parents’ six-month stay here, we visited the temple every Sunday to attend the evening arathi.
It is never a better time to visit the temple than during the celebrations of Deepavali and Annakut. This is the time when bhakthi and bhukthi come together and reach to its best during the year. Families celebrate one of the most sacred and important festivals, Deepavali. Traditionally this time of the year also coincides with the completion of the harvest. As an offering of gratitude to God for his bountiful blessings, the new harvest is first used to cook exquisite foods for the Bhagavan.
In BAPS Swaminarayan Mandirs ‘Annakut‘, literally a mountain of food is offered to God on this day. A vast array of vegetarian foods is traditionally arranged in tiers or steps, in front of the Bhagavan. The sweets are placed nearest to the Bhagavan. As the tiers descend, other foods such as fruits, grains, dals, vegetables, and various fried savory foods are arranged. A mound of cooked rice, symbolic of Mt. Govardhan, is placed in the center.
In all Swaminarayan mandirs, sadhus and devotees then sing ‘Thaal’ – kirtans composed by the poet paramhansas of Shri Swaminarayan. These kirtans list and glorify the food items in an aesthetic, rhyming and pleasant manner, praying to the Bhagavan to accept them.
Annakut arrangement starts early in the morning until 11AM. From 11 to 1 PM, melodious Thaal kirthan singing, followed by a grand arati goes on. Bhagavan and Annakut darshan are open till evening. Around 4 PM, the now sanctified Annakut prasad – sweets, fruits and nuts are distributed to the visitors and devotees, followed again by evening arati.
We went and had Annakut darshan for the first time today at Swami Narayan Mandir. It was really an impressive, pleasing display of food art. A dedicated devotee or food connoisseur for a feast, we can’t help but praise “Jai Swami Narayan Bhagavan” for blessing us with such wide variety of fetching food. I recommend Annakut darshan ~ A celebration of food.
Swami Narayan Bhagavan ki Jai.